We have all experienced difficulty sleeping from time to time. Insomnia due to travel or a stressful event can be easily treated with medication (prescription or over the counter); however, when the sleep problems last more than a few nights the underlying cause needs to be addressed. Long term use of sleep medication can lead to dependence, next-day drowsiness, and when discontinued there is an increased risk of rebound insomnia.
There are several disorders that can interfere with sleep. First, insomnia is a common side-effect of many medications. Don’t discontinue your medication, but do talk to your physician. In some cases changing the timing or dosage of the medication can help. Many people experiencing anxiety or depression will also report episodes of insomnia. There are a number of medical conditions that interfere with sleep including, menopause, osteoarthritis, back pain, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea (to name a few).
Why should you care about how much you sleep? Did you know that sleeping less than 7 hours a night can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes? Lack of sleep can deregulate hormonal secretion, impair the body’s ability to regulate insulin and control blood sugar and increase inflammation. This often leads to overeating. You may find your body craving high energy foods like sweets or carbohydrates.
So what can you do? As a Cognitive-Behavior therapist, I begin insomnia treatment with a set of behavioral techniques to create a better sleep environment and establish habits that will lead to improved sleep. Secondly, we work on cognitive processes (what you are thinking about). These techniques help you learn to control negative or distorted thoughts that can fuel insomnia.